On thursday Amma went back to work. My school would re-open only on Monday. I envied my sisters. They were busy playing hide and seek with their friends. I regretted climbing up the fence. If only I didn’t climb, then I wouldn’t have fallen down, then I wouldn’t have broken my leg.
“Nina, salt finished, I have to cook lunch now!” Akkachi told me
” Oh oh. What are we going to do Akkachi? I can’t walk all the way to Anichettan’s shop with this leg Akkachi.
“Can I send Liza to the shop?” Akkachi asked me
“Ofcourse, that is a good idea.”
Akkachi went out and called Liza. From the living room I could hear the conversation.
“Liza, go to Anichettan’s shop and buy some salt”
“Akkachi, can’t you see I am busy? Besides I am not going to walk in this hot sun to Anichettan’s shop”
“Then you will have to eat lunch without any salt”
“That is Fine” She replied
“Please Liza, I am only asking you to go and buy salt, it only takes 10 minutes of your time. I am not asking you to go and buy an elephant”
“Then why don’t you go and buy, I am not going anywhere”
Akkachi came back inside and looked at me. I knew she is mad.
“How can the four of you come from the same parents and can be so different?”
“I don’t know Akkachi.”
“Never mind, I will go and buy the salt”
I know why Akkachi doesn’t want to go to Anichettan’s shop. Anichettan always touches her hands when he hands her the balance and Akkachi hates that.
“Akkachi, how much is salt?”
“Must be about 80 paise”
“Take the exact change and go, then he doesn’t have to touch your hand.”
“That idiot will still touch my hands, when he hands me the salt packet.”
“Akkachi, take the yellow kayam bag and open it and ask him to put the salt inside. then he won’t touch your hands. he will only be touching the bag”
“If I take that yellow bag with me, everyone would call me ‘pandi'”
“What do you want, Anichettan’s massage or “
Before I could complete, Akkachi hushed me
“keep quiet, Don’t talk about that creep. I will take the bag”
I saw Akkachi folding the yellow bag in to a tiny bundle and walking out grumblinng and mumbling.
I was all alone at home. After yesterday’s gypsy incident, I was a bit worried. ‘May be I will go and lay down’. I closed the main door and dragged my feet and walked to my bedroom.
I was just about reaching my room and I heard someone knocking the main door. My heart started to beat fast and I was scared. I thought may be I would pretend that nobody is home. Whoever is outside will knock and wait for sometime and then leave thinking that there is nobody home.
Then someone announced
‘Oh my goodness, that is the post man’. “Coming”. I yelled. Chechy must have send a letter. I dragged my leg and ran all the way to the main door.
ShankaranChettan is our post man. He was waiting outside with a stack of letters in his armpit and one envelope in his hand. he looked at my leg
“How did this happen?”
“I fell down from the fence wall!”
“edi koche when will you stop climbing the walls?”
“When I am old like you, then I will stop”. I grinned and told him
“Is your mother home? I will tell her that you called me an old man”
“my mother is not home, you have to walk all the way to town to tell her that”
“You are too smart. Sign here” he pointed a torn piece of paper.
“Sign?”. I looked at him bewildered
“Write your name here”. He showed me the column. It was a small column and not enough space to write Nina Thomas. I took the paper from Shankaranchettan’s hand and slowly wrote my name. I could only write Nina Tho in the column. I looked at Shankaranchettan, trying to see if I can write the rest of my name in the other column.
“That is enough”. he pulled the paper from my hand and gave me the letter.
I watched him leave, holding his old black umbrella to shade his face from the sun. Only then I looked at the envelope in my hand. It had a beautiful stamp. Beautiful bird picture and I tried to read the country name. RHODESIA.
I looked at the address. The hand writing looked familiar. It took me a few seconds to realize that it is not a letter from chechy. it is my father’s letter. My hands were shivering and I couldn’t breath. I opened the letter quickly. There was a white paper folded neatly inside and I opened it. A piece of paper fell down as I opened the letter.
There was just four sentences. I am fine, I work in Rhodesia now, sending some money. Hope the kids are fine.
‘Money?’. There is no money inside the envelope. I read the letter again. I looked inside the envelope. There is no money. ‘Could Shankaranchettan have taken the money?’. I checked the envelope. There was no sign of tampering on the envelope.
I picked up the piece of paper from the floor. It was a draft for 2000RS. I sat on my bed. There were too many things going in my mind. My father send a letter, and we have money now. I don’t know where is Rhodesia. I also felt bad for doubting ShankaranChettan. “parumala thirumeni, maappakkane” ( Please forgive my sins). I prayed.
I saw Akkachi entering the courtyard.
“Akkachi, Appa send a letter”.
“Here, see the letter”. I gave the letter to Akkachi.
She read it and asked me
“Where is Rhodesia?”
“I don’t know Akkachi. Do you think I should let Amma know?”
“I think so, she will be relieved to know that there is a letter from your father.”
“I will go to Aunty Reena’s house and make a phone call to Amma”
“Can you walk that far?”
“Ofcourse I can, Aunty Reena’s house is just three houses away. I can certainly walk that far”
I was excited. I am the first one to know that my father is alive and working in Rhodesia. I am bringing good news for my mother. She would be so happy that, even if my leg is broken I walked all the way to Aunty Reena’s house to make a phone call.
I knocked at Aunty Reena’s door. Her mother opened the door
“Ammachi, may I make a short phone call?”
“Who are you calling?”
“Ok, make it short”
“I only need to tell her something, it will only take a minute”
“Ok, You can use the phone”
I took the reciever in my hand and dialled Amma’s office number. My heart was beating fast with excitement. I heard the telephone operator saying “hello”.
“Hello, Can I speak to Mary Thomas?”
“Oh she is on leave today,Who is that calling?”
I put the receiver down.